Netherlands’ hard-right coalition chooses former spy chief as PM

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The Netherlands finally has a prime minister — and it is not Geert Wilders, the hard-right firebrand who won a surprise victory in the last Dutch election.

On Tuesday, former spy chief Dick Schoof, 67, was picked to lead a coalition headed by Wilders’s party, ending months of negotiation over how to work with Wilders’s radical Party for Freedom.

Wilders, 60, has been a household name in Europe over the past two decades, known for his inflammatory views on Islam and immigration, and his opposition to the European Union.

In a shocking result last November, Wilders’s far-right party won 37 of the Dutch legislature’s 150 seats, more than doubling its footprint from after 2021 elections. The substantial win made it the largest party in parliament and Wilders the kingmaker of Dutch politics.

“The step I am taking is unexpected, but not illogical,” Schoof told reporters in The Hague on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. “In the end, the question you have to answer for yourself is, can I do something good? And my answer is, yes,” he said.

Wilders congratulated Schoof, writing on X that he has “a great track record, is nonpartisan and therefore above the parties, has integrity and is also very likable.”

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For the Netherlands, a new government will mark the end of Mark Rutte’s long tenure as prime minister and a sharp shift to the right.

Wilders has previously called for banning the Quran and stopping the nation’s acceptance of asylum seekers. His rise also represents a growing political momentum in Europe that has given the far right a chance to reshape the region’s politics and policies.

Far-right parties have taken power in Italy, extended their rule in Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, earned a coalition role in Finland, continued to gain pace in France under opposition leader Marine Le Pen, and made striking gains in regional elections in Austria and Germany.

The Netherlands’ new coalition includes Wilders’s party, Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, the centrist New Social Contract party and the populist Farmer Citizen Movement.

In a coalition deal reached last week, the parties agreed to push for new limits on asylum seekers, an end to family reunification for refugees and a reduction in the number of international students, the AP reported.

Schoof is a top civil servant who has held top jobs in intelligence, counterterrorism and immigration and is currently at the Ministry of Justice.

Koen Vossen, an academic and the author of “The Power of Populism: Geert Wilders and the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands,” said not much is known about Schoof’s personal politics.

“Schoof is a typical bureaucrat without a strong political profile,” Vossen said. “We don’t know much about his political opinions, but he seems to be a real pragmatist.”

Simon Otjes, an assistant professor at Leiden University who studies Dutch politics, was surprised to see the coalition choose a technocrat without experience as a minister or member of parliament as prime minister.

“It is strange that a cabinet led by a populist party chooses a technocrat that is making the current policy,” he said. “It shows the difficulty of finding someone they could agree on.”

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